Jennifer E. Smith
Author, Jennifer E. Smith, was kind enough to answer our questions about her novel The Comeback Season (including a one line summary!), her favorite books and authors, and what she is currently working on (and what we can now look forward too!).
1.Can you remember around the time you first became interested in being an author?
My school had a short story contest in fourth grade, and I won. I got to go down to the state capitol for a writing conference, and from then on, I was hooked. But there’s a big difference between liking to write and wanting to be an author. The first time I really considered it beyond just a hobby was in college, when a professor pulled me aside to ask if I’d ever thought of getting my MFA in creative writing. I remember it seemed so absurd to me at the time, that writing could potentially be a career. It was something I’d always dreamed about, but it was always just that – a dream. It seemed about as realistic as becoming an astronaut. So that was probably the first time I seriously considered it, though it still took a long time to get from there to here.
2.When you came up with the idea of The Comeback Season, what did you start out with (a character, an idea, etc.)?
It was kind of a combination of the character and the idea – I guess it really started with a scene. I’d been watching the Cubs lose for about the millionth time, and I just got this picture in my head of a girl on a train, heading down to Wrigley for Opening Day. The rest of the story kind of emerged from there.
3.Judging from The Comeback Season, you must know a lot about the Chicago Cubs. Am I right to assume you were a fan before you wrote the book? Do you yourself play the sport?
There’s a line in the book where Ryan tells Nick that she’s not a baseball fan, she’s a Cubs fan. That’s how it is for me, too. I love the Cubs, but wouldn’t have a clue if you tried to talk to me about most other teams. The book is very purposely non-specific in that way – it doesn’t name any players, or talk much about the particulars of the sport. I meant for it to be vague, to really stress the more romantic aspects of the Cubs and their history, and what all that represents.
4.The main character is named Ryan, which I love. Is there a specific reason for her having that particular name, especially since it's most commonly used for boys?
Even though she’s not necessarily a tomboy – her knowledge of sports begins and ends with the Cubs – I wanted her to have a somewhat boyish name. I thought it would suit the character. I thought of Ryan because my favorite Cubs player is Ryne Sandberg, but I decided to go with a more traditional spelling, and so ended up just making a little joke about it in the book.
5. If you had to write one sentence to sum up the book, what would you say?
A story about love, loss, and learning to hope.
6.What song or songs do you feel would suit the book?
Go Cubs Go? Take Me Out to the Ballgame? In all seriousness, I think if books had a soundtrack, this one would be pretty mellow, something soft and sweet and sad.
7. Is there anything specific that you hope people who read the book get out of it?
Just mostly a sense of hope. The book is very sad at times, but hopefully, it’s also optimistic. It’s all about comebacks, about overcoming the odds, enduring tough times, and holding on to that unwavering belief that things will get better. Because they always do.
8. If you had to cast your own book for a movie, who would you pick to play Ryan and Nick?
That’s a good question – I’ve never actually thought about it. Maybe the kids from Bridge to Terabithia, but I might just be saying that because it’s a similar kind of book. I’m not really sure!
9.How long did it take you to write the book?
It took about six months to write the full first draft. This book came a lot quicker than some other stuff I’ve written though. There was something about it that just clicked, and made it unusually easy to get down on the page.
10.What do you most enjoy about writing fiction geared towards teens/young adults?
When I got the idea for the book, I wasn’t necessarily setting out to write for teens. It just so happened that the main characters were that age. So I wrote it as I’d write anything else – sometimes people have the misconception that YA books are easy reading, but that’s not true at all. Most of the time, they’re not all that different from adult books, it’s just that they’re about younger characters. And in some ways, that makes it a lot more fun. Plus, I was a huge reader at that age, so it’s rewarding to be trying to reach that same audience.
11. Is there anything else you are currently working on?
Yes, another YA novel called You Are Here, which is a road trip story. It’s about a girl and a boy who think they’re very different, but when they set off to uncover a family secret, they end up discovering they’re a lot more alike than they first thought. It will be out in Summer 2009.
12.What are some of your own favorite books and authors?
I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, of course. Probably to a somewhat embarrassing extent. Some of of my other favorites are The Great Gatsby, The Road, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The History of Love, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
13. If you could wish on a real shooting star, what would you wish for?
If you tell, it doesn’t come true!